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It's been a decade since the Tampa Bay Buccaneers won at least 10 games in a season, which the betting market expects them to do this year. It's also been 18 years since a Tom Brady-led team didn't reach double-digit wins. Something has to give in 2020 when the future Hall of Famer stands under center for one of the least successful teams in NFL history.
Here are the Buccaneers' win total odds and the case for each side:
Let's start, as most bettors do, with the offense. The Buccaneers ranked just outside the top 10 in touchdowns per drive in 2019 and third in fewest punts (.294) and three-and-outs (.144) per drive. However, a league-worst turnover rate stalled more than 20% of their possessions, thanks mostly to errant throws by former starting quarterback Jameis Winston.
On the other hand, Brady is tied for the fourth-lowest interception rate in NFL history (1.8%), and his New England Patriots turned it over on just 7.6% of drives last year. Few stats predict offensive efficiency as well as turnover rate, and the Bucs should go from one of the most turnover-prone teams to one of the least.
That will also help the defense, which was effective by advanced metrics but hamstrung by the offense's terrible habits. Tampa Bay tied for sixth in fewest yards allowed per play (5.1) and ranked fifth in forced turnovers (28), but a league-worst average field position contributed to the defense allowing the fourth-most points in the league.
Even if Brady doesn't play at an MVP level, he should correct the turnover woes, and his play and leadership will help both sides of the ball.
What if Brady's relatively underwhelming 2019 is the beginning of a new chapter for the 42-year-old? And if it is, can the rest of the roster overcome it?
Brady posted a career-worst touchdown rate (3.9%) and had near-worsts in completion percentage (60.8%), yards per attempt (6.6), and passer rating (88.0) last year. Those numbers all tell a similar story: Brady wasn't very aggressive or efficient in his final season with the Patriots.
That was partly due to a depleted receiving corps, which won't be an issue in Tampa Bay. But it also tracks with the expected results of aging; Brady's arm strength will continue to wane as he gets older, as will his ability to fit throws into tight windows and showcase the impeccable accuracy we've come to expect from him.
The Bucs don't have an established run game to lean on offensively and also had a leaky secondary and relied heavily on a stout run defense to prevent points. That isn't the best formula to win in a pass-happy NFC South, which could force Brady into a catch-up role he's simply not accustomed to.
This largely comes down to your perception of Brady and his ability to sustain above-average play with a new team. If you believe he's only a marginal upgrade over Winston, it's hard to see the Buccaneers improving by three wins over last year. But if you think he's better than that, it's equally hard to expect regression with a roster that's largely the same outside of quarterback.
Call me a bandwagon bettor, but I'm buying the hype on this Tampa Bay squad. It's impossible to overstate just how detrimental the turnovers were last year for an otherwise talented roster with impact players at nearly every key position. The upgrade from Winston to Brady is easily worth betting on, as is a cupcake schedule that should ease the veteran's transition to a new team.
(Odds source: theScore Bet)
C Jackson Cowart is a betting writer for theScore. He's an award-winning journalist with stops at The Charlotte Observer, The San Diego Union-Tribune, The Times Herald-Record, and BetChicago. He's also a proud graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, and his love of sweet tea is rivaled only by that of a juicy prop bet. Find him on Twitter @CJacksonCowart.